The Outpouring of Divine Mercy: A thought on the Work of God among all Christians

The Works of Mercy, by David Teniers the Younger

The Works of Mercy (c.1645), by David Teniers the Younger. (Wikipaintings.org)

Hello, dear friends. I’m still around. I’m continuing to struggle with some things — not least of all a real terror of a paper — but I think the sun is beginning to shine through the clouds, and I hope, I pray, that I’ll soon be able to return to you on a more regular basis.

I have been thinking about a lot of things lately — the direction this blog has been taking, the direction my heart has been taking, and the way my heart needs to lead this blog. For one thing, I need and deeply long to return to this blog’s original mission, to extol all the beauties and graces of the Catholic Church, and to ponder the lamentable divide between Catholics and Protestants, and to work in my own way to bring us closer together. I have been lashing out defensively, even aggressively, against Protestants who reject communion with the Catholic Church, against their arguments and even against their beliefs. But the truth is that this all breaks my heart grievously, in being hurt and even more in that my words might hurt others.

I have been spending a lot of time with my Protestant brethren lately, most of all my dear Baptist friends. And I find that the passion, the mercy, and the love of their worship and ministry is true and genuine and full of God’s grace and healing. And that begs the question, as my wandering road as a Protestant always begged — how can more than one thing be true? If the Catholic Church is Christ’s True Church, founded by Him and His Apostles, bearer of Apostolic Tradition, the fullness of God’s plan of salvation for us — and this I firmly and thoroughly believe — what are our separated brethren? And if I see God’s grace and love alive and active in them, as witnessed by the transformation of lives — what does that mean for the Truth? It means, I suppose, that God is so much bigger than us and our petty disputes, than any division we can create; that His mercy is infinitely greater and overflowing to all who love Him.

We of the Catholic faith practice the Christian life as it has been handed down to us. Catholic tradition is just that — that which has been handed down — and it has been handed down from the ages because it is what works, what time has proven to bear fruit, and what Christ and the Apostles commanded us to do. So what about all the other Christians who do differently, who believe differently? The Catholic Church is not in the business of pronouncing judgment on them, on deeming whether they or anyone is “saved.” What the Church teaches is what she knows; what she has received; what has proven to be true. How God moves and saves with other Christians is His business, the outpouring of His Divine Mercy. It is our job to seek His Truth, and to be faithful and obey.

18 thoughts on “The Outpouring of Divine Mercy: A thought on the Work of God among all Christians

  1. I do not have the perspective of someone who’s converted from one Church to another as my conversion is from a different faith altogether.

    However, your mention of Catholic tradition in this post has prompted me to post about the graces that flow during a Catholic Mass – something which I had read and archived without sharing with others.

    God be with you through your trials. I am taking the liberty of leaving here a quote by St.Therese:

    I do not fear trials sent by Jesus, for even in the most bitter suffering we can see that it is His loving hand which causes it. When we are expecting nothing but suffering, we are quite surprised at the least joy; but then suffering itself becomes the greatest of joys when we seek it as a precious treasure. Far from resembling those beautiful saints who practiced all sorts of austerities from childhood, my penance consisted in breaking my self-will, in keeping back a sharp reply, in doing little kindnesses to those about me, but considering these deeds as nothing.

  2. “… against Protestants who reject communion with the Catholic Church…”
    Hey now, some of us didn’t leave on of our own accord.

    You are struggling with questions that the Roman church has finally begun asking itself in the last 60 years. There are no easy answers, so don’t shy away!

    • Were you ever full-blown Catholic? I read that you went to a Catholic high school, didn’t I?

      Having come from whence I’ve come, and knowing so many dear ones on the other side, it’s natural to think about how the kingdom all fits together. Because I have no doubt that so many of them are serving Christ faithfully and will be rewarded.

      • No, I’ve never been Roman Catholic–I’m a life-long Lutheran who’s been exposed to different traditions over the years. I did go to a Roman Catholic high school, yes. None of that makes me an expert on anything, though I consider myself to have a high understanding of my own tradition because of my years in seminary.

        The admission by the Second Vatican Council that salvation may exist in some form outside of the Roman Catholic church is seen as either one of the great accomplishments or as one of the greatest failures of the Council, depending on how one views it. I know I am glad that my status in the eyes of Rome has been upgraded to “separated brethren.” Not because I need Rome’s approval, but because it was a step in the direction of reconciliation and healing. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 was another one of those steps. It’s why I am proud that the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the U.S. is, if I remember correctly, the longest-running ecumenical dialogue in the world. The more we talk, the better we understand each other, even if that understanding is clarification on what we disagree on.

        • Yeah, I think that particular line from Vatican II, in Lumen gentium, has drawn a lot of flack from Traditionalist Catholics (see § 8), who insist “nulla salus extra ecclesiam” (there is no salvation outside the Church, a quote from St. Cyprian):

          This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.

          The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Benedict issued a clarification to that a few years ago to try to clear up confusion and misinterpretation — for both the upset Traditionalists (one could hope) and the liberals who wanted to interpret it too broadly, as saying the Church is universal and includes everybody. It’s a brief document, but here is the crux:

          It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe… in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

          Basically, Rome affirms that Vatican II represents continuity with Catholic doctrine, and not a change or break with tradition as some Traditionalists read it. There is still nulla salus extra ecclesiam — but at the time St. Cyprian was writing, you were either with the Catholic Church or you were a heretic. I guess the important admission is that you all are not entirely hopeless heretics. 😉 The Church subsists in the Catholic Church; but Protestants are still holding on to enough of the elements of sanctification — extensions of the True Church — to receive God’s grace.

          We have indeed come a long way. I pray every day that God will reunite His Church. It is going to take a lot of forgiveness and a lot of understanding and a lot of humility from all parties, but I do believe it is possible.

  3. Pingback: Sacrament and Schism: The Media of Grace and Our Separated Brethren « The Lonely Pilgrim

  4. I missed this when I was away, but, like you, I have been spending quite a lot of time with Evangelical Protestants, and they have a lot to teach some of us – and to learn – if only we can all listen as well as talk 🙂

    • Well, as a Catholic I believe that Jesus founded a Church and intended for us to remain one (John 17:22-23). So doctrine definitely matters and division is wrong against His will. But I do believe that God is infinitely merciful and in so many cases comes to meet us where we are. We should certainly strive for His truth in every way that we are able, though.

      • Thank you Joseph, but I was refering to faith in Jesus, not involvement in a denomination. We cannot have faith in a denomination we can only put our confidence (faith) in the blood of Christ.

        • No Christian should be putting faith in a denomination. All of us are Christian because we put our trust in God and the incarnate Christ. That said, most of us are passionate about the community of faith in which we find ourselves, even if that means no community at all (which is a huge loss).

        • How, in your opinion, do you separate faith in Jesus from involvement in His Church — His Body? Of course it is Jesus who saves — but the Church is the vessel He appointed to bear us to salvation. In the Protestant idea of things, churches (and “denominations”) are man-made institutions, and putting faith in them is putting faith in men. But the Church is the Body of Christ, founded by Him. Putting faith in the Church is a part of putting faith in Him, that His teachings and His Word is true.

          • Hi Joseph, indeed the church is the body of Christ, but it was never intended as the means of salvation – salvation is only obtained as we individually receive the work of the cross. regards G

          • Okay. Jesus founded a Church (Matthew 16:18). There was a lot of talk of entrusting His Apostles with authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19, 18:18), to forgive sins or withhold forgiveness (John 20:23), and charging them with evangelizing the world and baptizing in His name (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:19). It’s through the Church that the wisdom of God is to be made known to the world (Ephesians 3:10). What do you suppose it means that the Church is the “Body of Christ” (Colossians 1:18)? What is the purpose of that Church, if we are all meant to obtain salvation individually?

          • go a few verses further to Col. 1:20 and it becomes clear “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself” – it is by Him and to Him – the point of the church is that we are the living Christ-born on earth – living in the power of the cross and the life of the Spirit – but not that we provide salvation – each must receive the work of the cross for themselves, each must say Yes to the blood of Christ, each must choose to believe in His sacrifice. cheers Graeme

          • Of course redemption is for Christ and by Christ — through the Church He established for that purpose. Paul is speaking here of the Church. The language he uses here — “He has now reconciled in His Body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:22) — echoes his language in Ephesians: husbands are to love their wives as “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). The Church is the Bride of Christ. Every person must accept God’s grace, but we receive that grace through His Church, from Christ. In our Baptism, we are joined with the Body of Christ. It sounds as if you are arguing that one can be saved individually (and individualistically) without being a part of that Body.

Comments are closed.